Taken by surprise

29 May 2012 | Fiction, poetry

In her fifth collection of poems, Pauliina Haasjoki explores night flights, water, islands, sandy beaches where time is found stratified in stones and fossils. Interview by Teemu Manninen

Poems from Aallonmurtaja (‘Breakwater’, Otava, 2011)

Night flight

Man cannot hide in the night, his desire will betray him.
Man turns toward the lights, light sparkles as though it were close at hand
even if it is far away.

Lights, which offer themselves like jewels to the one who sits in the plane above them, are already
                                                                                                                                 in their viewers’
eyes even if they have only just begun to stream from their source. A city-jewel swaying
in the black night air.
A solitary light on the surface of an island. Seen close up it is a soft-lit lamp
which casts light only on the table and the faces around it,
but from above, at a distance of kilometres, it is an immediate spot, a straight line that
                                                                                                                                aims at the viewer
and pierces her. A fierce light-beam.

Perhaps in the house someone has set a light in both windows,
looking at each other from opposite walls.
Then a beam can come in through one window and leave through the other.
Lighthouse light, sunset light.

The immateriality of the house becomes clear, the fact that it is just
general air that someone has earmarked
and which through care she is able to keep warm.

But perhaps there are two sitters around the table. Then the house closes.

But if someone is sitting at the table alone,
we can go to her, behind her ears,
we can certainly go up close to her.
The radio is beside her on the table, and sometimes the programme is decades old,
as if the radio were so old that it can only produce its old broadcasts. But it is only a short journey
to the past, not even a short one; some awakening moment pushes a hat-pin
through the layers of the past, memory connects times with one another.

The quite special kind of sleep into which you fall as night comes in a homeward-bound
vehicle, in a fusiform shape that overtakes everything: a rising sun
that is setting.  Sleep arrives against the seat-back into which you sink, copying the force
of speed. The sense of speed has disappeared and all sense of place. It would press
you strongly into this seat, if you could feel it. Now you have to fall asleep. All reason has been
shaken out of the nocturnal world. The thing which encloses you is just an immaterial jewel
or cloud. As sleep approaches the plane begins to take quiet, wide steps in the moonlight;
no longer in the sky – now you are journeying on the forested island. The night is black but blue
at its centre. Nothing is to be heard. Somewhere in the sky however there may be clouds, and
                                                                                                                                  in them thunder,
like claws in a paw!

A catalogue of catalogues

In the alphabet you only reach the letter n,
there is so much to tell if you want to tell it all,
even if you let the thought be a generous rake,
a swipe, an electron microscope that barely distinguishes
a grain of sand. Even if you were to journey from one constellation to the next and make
arcs across the sky, named a few animals,
allowed the nameless, almost bursting thought
to represent everything, left the sentence unfinished like a declaration
of love, plants, everything scented, you do know.


All of that. A couple of children examined the beach enthusiastically, its
sandy and stony zones, at one point someone found such
a large fossil that he did not want to know anything about it.
The intention was to turn every stone. When the wave walked
to the shore, new stones licked by it. The tip of the headland and
steep slopes either side, seagulls, a white-tailed eagle,
barking jaws. When they found the mouth of the cave,
the beach and the sun were left entirely. They walked
for kilometres inside the porous rock, opened
the cave with their torch.


Do I know anything about what is really happening?
In the middle or the edges, wherever at all
on the chart, or in myself. A great cave is dug.
A poisonous stream is dammed. Furious calculations.
Immaterial value is born. The earth does not bear it,
at some points it collapses inward.
Water steams, water falls, water flows, but not eternally.
For the moment we may sit together and see
water become water.

The breakwater

I t  s o  h a p p e n e d  that they sat on the roof of the boat and arched
over the water in their delight, the sea carried them somewhere. The boat was
light to steer and understood like a horse; they were able to
lean, laugh and become drunken. There are no words for this.
The surface so steep that eyes had to be closed, the tender core
that splits almost immediately, for example humility.

Slow sounds break the water like long oars, and the long
ship slips forward. Enormous oars hit the water far away,
travel just below the surface, are lifted, drip,
are jerked backwards. Steady, narrow, powerful oars.


H o w  d o  y o u  read it? From top to bottom? Toward the centre?
A quite unnoticeable jolt. A grey heron was here, stepping, and now it is similarly reflected
in the calm water. What happened? Perhaps it was a change of phase.
After that things begin in reality, now that they can command themselves
from their own new place, act accordingly. Joy is great. Has illness vanished?
Cruelty has vanished. Has the challenge communicated by a direct gaze disappeared?
You laugh at me and laugh at everything at which I do not laugh.


B u t  f o r  e x a m p l e  there is joy in stone, and in water. And when taken by surprise,
shaking off and stepping into your new place, you have been caught again.
Both demons and animals keep pushing Man, and angels as well,
constantly some burr grabs your hair, your sleeve on a tree-stump,
your glove falls, a window opens outwards,
a hare comes in through a gap in the wall and a bird flies out through the roof.
Music reels out the thread of time behind it.
The gaze is already in the eyes and they are already tuned together, very clumsy
all attempts. The oar hits the water vertically, the water spatters.
The branch sways. But time does not leave even one of us.

How dangerous it is to travel the world and let every stranger
tell the truth, and expect far too much from song, which unites human voices;
behave as if you had just come before the sphinx.

Translated by Hildi Hawkins


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